Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Micromanage vs Microknowledge

Robert Gates, former U.S. Defense Secretary, recently wrote in his memoirs that a strong and effective leader in a big and complex organization needs to put the time and energy into acquiring "microknowledge" but refrain from "micromanagement.

An interesting thought, to be sure. Let the emphasis lie on "... put in the time and energy... " This stuff is not free. Didn't Gladwell say: 10,000 hours to be an expert? Well, microknowledge is not 10,000 hours worth; indeed: most Defense secretaries don't even serve 10,000 hours.

On the other hand: "Microknowledge"? What's that?

  • Think of it as the knowledge you would need if you were to micromanage -- thus, it's the knowledge you use to assert leverage, influence, and legitimacy over those you do lead.

In other words, you need to understand the traffic while you resist the impulse to direct the traffic -- others can do that for you. (Think of the scene from the movie "Patton" when the General himself is standing in an intersection of tangled tank traffic directing their movements... you probably don't want to do that, even though with microknowledge you might be successful)

  • And, it's the knowledge you use to make decisions about delegation (this individual can likely to "this" but would not be good at "that"...) and assess performance.

But, of course, there's a dark side: microknowledge also what feeds the old saw: "he knows enough to be dangerous, but not enough to be effective" If this said about you, then you've crossed the line from legitimacy and leverage to nuisance and nemesis... Back off!

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Privacy -- a perspective

If you read "The World is Flat" then you know that for project management the world is a flat platform with nearly unlimited connectivity that allows nearly everyone to climb aboard, more or less equal in their access to function and data.

Tom Friedman wrote the book; he's well known for his pithy summaries, and now he says this, which for project managers, is a heads-up for what the flat and universally accessible platform might bring:
"Privacy is over:" Hackers can get to anything; so beware your faith in non-disclosure agreements, patents, secrets and safes, and whatever you think is proprietary
"Local is over:" That's the message of the platform; I would argue a bit on this one since it is well documented that velocity and local go together. Want to go fast? Get local!
"Later is over:" In fact, if you're on-time, you're late. If you wait, the advantage goes over to the next guy. That brings "too fast to plan" and other inverted process paradigms into the frame.
"Average is over:" Functional automation of all manner of PM tasks is creeping in; and guess what: automation is quicker, faster, more accurate, and did I say 'above average'? Like timeliness, if you're average, you're lost
The first three are more or less on everyone's radar. We know about hackers and platforms and quicker-faster.

OMG, that last one is a problem. In any big organization, half the people are below the organization's average. Don't believe it? Just ask Mr Bell Curve. And, if automation pushes the expectation for the people mean upward, you've got to bring your A-game

And, so what's the A-game? Ever increasing intellectual skills to stay ahead of the robots, and broad experience so you don't get organized out of a job when things change. And attitude: a success today is to be rewarded with a harder job tomorrow... we love it!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Agile cycles

Agile methods are a grand bargain with the sponsor and with the portfolio manager:

In trade for latitude to encourage and accept change, the agile project manager delivers the best value possible for the allocated investment

And so, one is encouraged to ask: how does the investment for  best value -- aka: optimum capital allocation -- get envisioned and planned?

Enter: Planning cycles!

Yes, but ....
The customer (user) determines value, so how does that dynamic get cranked in ... (out yonder, beyond agile interations where, close in,  the customer dynamic is well understood)?

After all, consider: the portfolio leader must come to grip with dynamics that may affect strategic optimization and value maximization. Customer-directed value may well:
  •  Introduce unanticipated “creative destruction”, or “destructive innovation”
  • Affect carefully crafted portfolio coherence and coupling
  • Change commitments on the business and project scorecards, and
  • Affect stakeholder KPI’s
 Throughput is the big test .... throughput is what counts in the end after all the creation and innovation

Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox, writing in their business novel “The Goal”, made popular the concept of throughput when they set down their ideas for the Theory of Constraints. Throughput—a particular focus of agile methods—is defined as:
Throughput is that which is valuable to customers and users for which they are willing to pay and willing to adopt in their operations.

In agile methods, planned throughput is adjusted after each cycle or iteration. This table summarizes agile throughput.
Agile throughput
Throughput is what customers buy and use
Throughput improves the business scorecard
·   Each agile iteration produces throughput
·   Each iteration consumes resources, and …
·   Depletes the business balance sheet
Throughput restores business balance sheet over time

Need more? Chapter 11 in my book "Managing Project Value" will give you all you can handle.

Read in the library at Square Peg Consulting about these books I've written
Buy them at any online book retailer!
Read my contribution to the Flashblog